Tag: writing

ClockI work quickly.  I don’t do this because I have a desperate need to release a book every three to four months, as so many self-publishing gurus suggest, but rather because I have a lot of stories to tell and a finite time in which to tell them.  Some believe it’s perfectly okay to take years to write a book.  If they only have a handful of stories in them, that works.  If the opposite is true, they need to get a move on.

There is no secret to writing quickly.  I’m sorry to be the one to break the bad news.  The only real way to write quickly is to write a modestly ambitious amount five days a week.  There is absolutely no need to write 5,000 words a day, or more, no matter what anyone tells you.  There’s no reason to spend twelve hours slaving away on a treadmill desk, churning out fiction.  If you want to finish a book in what many would consider record time, write about 2,000 words each day, five days a week.  That’s it.

Yes, I know, some of you are saying, “Two thousand words a day!?  Are you insane?”  Short answer: no.  I figure about 80,000 words for a novel, broken out by forty days (eight work weeks), which reduces to two thousand.  Two months is more than fast enough for anyone’s purpose and, really, two thousand words is nothing.  As of this sentence, you’ve read 250 words, and it’s only been three paragraphs.  Write another nine paragraphs and you’re done.

At first you’ll take some time to hit this rate.  I started slowly back in the mid-oughts, writing just those 250 words a day.  It didn’t take long until my writing energy exceeded that count, so I increased to five hundred a day, then seven-fifty… you see how it goes.  Right now I can do approximately 1,500 words in an hour, which means I’m done with my daily count in an hour and a half.  Do you have an hour and half to spare?  I’m willing to bet you do.

Note that this doesn’t include time for revision once the book is done.  I set aside another twenty days for that, as revision is a more labor-intensive process.  But, again, three months to finish and polish a book is nothing in the scheme of things.  If you have stories to tell, that makes all the difference.


Sam HawkenThere’s a cliché that writers, especially good writers, are all either unhinged, or on the cusp of being so.  While there may be some degree of truth to this, as bipolar disorder (from which I suffer) can and does contribute to periods of enhanced written production, I think I can safely say you’d probably consider not having bipolar disorder more of a plus to your writing ambitions than the other way around.  Which brings me to my point: madness is not a prerequisite for being a creative soul.

Despite that fact that it’s a new century and we ought to know better, there’s still this idea that mental illness is somehow a character flaw.  If only we were tough enough, or practical enough, or did enough yoga or had a better diet, that pesky depression (or whatever) would simply disappear.  Being tough, practical and/or healthy doesn’t hurt in general, but not being those things doesn’t cause mental illness and they certainly aren’t a cure.  If one were to say one had cancer, and someone recommended jogging as a way to fix the problem, I believe it’s legal in most states to bludgeon that person.

Mental illness need not be so severe that it causes suicide in order to be taken seriously.  Any level of mental illness is a concern and deserves treatment.  If you’re experiencing manic episodes, or suffering from long-term depression, or you’re having disordered thoughts, seek help.  Even if you don’t have a lot of (or any) money, options are out there if you look.

And whatever you do, don’t use the excuse that you might upset your writing life somehow by addressing your illness.  These things — creativity and mental health — aren’t inversely related.  In fact, you may find your writing improves dramatically when the true roadblocks to wellness are removed.